Postpartum depression: – Ignorance, stigma and association to lack of faith in Africa of mental illnesses.

Understanding Postpartum or postnatal depression

Postpartum depression, also known as postnatal depression is one of the mental illnesses which most African communities are quite ignorant about. Stigma around mental illnesses is worrisome in Africa and the illnesses are sometimes associated with lack of faith in religion, as portrayed in a thread I was reading in the Divorce Diaries of Jaruma Magazine, an online magazine of Nigeria. A 47 year old man divorced her wife after years of a happy marriage because she was not herself after giving birth. Doctors advised that it was Postpartum/postnatal depression but the family took the mother back home where she was secluded and was given herbal medicine.

‘My ever smiling Habiba became withdrawn and moody. Her ever smiling face was replaced by a permanent frown. Habiba had locked herself in the room and had refused to come out. She had refused to feed the twins. I thought that was rather strange. This wasn’t the woman I knew. She was curled in a corner clutching something. My heart was beating fast, was that a knife? Was she planning to kill herself? I was very angry! What more did this woman want for God’s sake? How can she be depressed as a Muslim woman? Wasn’t she praying to God? How can having children make a woman depressed? She has a husband and she has children, she has Islam. I was frustrated. I decide to end the marriage but that didn’t bring any relief to my situation.’

http://jaruma.net/divorce-diaries-season-4-eps-4/

The story ended by them seeking cure with herbs! This narrative portrayed the level of Ignorance, stigma and lack of faith associated to postpartum depression and mental illnesses as a whole. It is high time we educate our people about mental illnesses and that they should seek professional help instead of stigmatizing the patients. Mental illnesses have nothing to do with religion or witchcraft. Disregarding mental illnesses is very dangerous and can lead to fatal outcomes.

Postpartum depression (PPD) is a type of depression that occurs following birth and affects 1 in every 7 mothers. The Health ministry approximates that one in every 10 Kenyan women develop depression after giving birth which, in some cases, can be so severe that the mothers commit suicide. Giving birth is supposed to be a happy and joyful event, but for some mothers it is not and they suffer postpartum depression.

In postpartum depression, the woman suffers clinical depression within a few weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include unusual signs of crying and fear, feeling of helplessness and over-whelmed, anxiety and easy irritability, severe sadness, not having a bond to the baby or even hating and wanting to harm the baby, fatigue, changes in sleeping and eating patterns etc. Postpartum depression cause is not completely clear, possible combination of genetics, physical and emotional factors associated with the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Postpartum blues is the milder form whereby the woman has mood swings, crying or anxiety due to normal reactions to the hormones after giving birth in the first few weeks. Postpartum blues disappear on its own without medical help.

If you suspect someone is suffering from postpartum depression, gently talk to them and explain that it is not something that they have brought on themselves, don’t blame them and seek professional help and counselling. In severe cases anti-depressants will be used in managing the depression.

In finishing the article, it’s interesting to note that postpartum depression doesn’t affect only the mothers but the fathers too!

 

 

 

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